I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the new graduates of the SNA programme in UCD. This programme of training was advised by the National Council for Special Education, NCSE, in 2018. Some 3,500 students will take that course over the next three years.
To get back to the Deputy’s specific question on SNAs in general, we have increased the number of SNAs by 81% since 2011. We can all agree that that is a significant increase on what was originally there. That is not to deny that schools will occasionally need additionality.
There is the process of exceptional review where a school requires an additional SNA.
The front-loading allocation model does not relate to special classes or schools, given they are outside of that. An SNA is allocated to a special class or school depending on the type of disability. In respect of mainstream classes, the front-loading allocation was frozen during Covid. We felt it would have been too great a burden on schools if we were to try to change that. The SNA allocations for existing and mainstream classes, including in new and developing schools, were maintained as of 30 April and were rolled over into the 2021-22 school year, and SNAs who are in position can remain so for the school year. Applications from developing and new schools were prioritised. The 1,165 SNAs who were allocated in budget 2022 will be allocated as a priority to developing and new schools. I accept the Deputy's point in that context. Nevertheless, a diagnosis is no longer needed to access an SNA in mainstream schools.